Changing Times: “There Was a Crooked Man…” (1970)


    If there were ever a film which demonstrates the confusion of veteran Hollywood studio directors in adapting to the then-newly found freedom afforded filmmakers with the abolition of the Production Code, it’s Joesph L. Mankiewicz’ 1970 serio-comic western, “There Was a Crooked Man…”. With the Code’s erasure, director and writers were finally given an opportunity (outside of the selected conformity imposed on certain individuals by the cinematically ignorant thus skittish studio gobbling corporate  hierarchies) for a fuller expression of human behavior- not simply an available increase in graphic violence and nudity -in which morality in not always observed, nor the law always triumphant.

     “There Was a Crooked Man…” is the first and only foray into Western territory for the director though due to its subject matter, Mankiewicz is unable to reveal whether or not his considerable talent for adapting into the demands of a variety of different genre types (his “Guys and Dolls” is a delight, an imaginatively staged production honoring the stylish artifice of both the film’s theatrical roots and Runyon’s iconoclastic prose style, re-imagined- and distinctly superior to the theatrical version on every level -into one of the most underrated musical films of the studio era) might find fullest expression in such a restrictive story line; the entire film is predicated on the narrowest of lies, not a very fertile ground for thematic development, as the energies of script, director and actors are all wasted in the employment of a dual deception, one which is rather patently transparent, the latter thrown in as a cynical coda which makes no sense considering all that has gone on- the script’s version of giving the audience the finger.

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About chandlerswainreviews

I've been a puppet, a pirate, a pauper, a poet, a pawn and a king, not necessarily in that order. My first major movie memory was being at the drive-in at about 1 1/2 yrs. old seeing "Sayonara" so I suppose an interest in film was inevitable. (For those scoring at home- good for you- I wasn't driving that evening, so no need to alert authorities.)Writer, critic and confessed spoiler of women, as I have a tendency to forget to put them back in the refrigerator. My apologies.
This entry was posted in 1970's cinema, cinema, Drive-In Movies, Film Criticism, Film Reviews, Films, movie reviews, Movies, Reviews, westerns and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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